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Tag Archives: mountains

The Shadow of Death

Every morning and evening before sunset, shadows reflect the landscape of the earth.  Mountains, rolling hills and trees leave imprints of what is near or around you.  Once darkness exchanges day with night, shadows are limited to moonlight, stars and the northern lights.  However, the shadow of death can apear at a moments notice, signaling that your days on earth are numbered.  24 hours ago there was a murder suicide in my neighborhood, taking the lives of two twenty year olds.

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me, Psalm 23:4.

Psalm 23 is a common Bible reading at funerals.  As a shepherd living under the stars, shadows were a normal sight for David.  Yet, the painful reality of death inspired David to coin this chapter.  The only time I have witnessed death was just before my oldest sons birth.  Since my grandfather’s health was failing, family was noticed as everyone gathered around his bed.  Struggling to breathe, my sister Cindy began to read Psalm 23 to ease his pain.  A few minutes later, grandpa Kautz gave up his spirit.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.”

One of the forefather’s of Israel, Moses eludes to the shadow of death in his farewell address before Joshua takes over for him as leader.  Moses provides an unique perspective, using choices as an analogy.  According to Moses, the choices you make daily lead to one destination or the other.  Life and death are a series of choices that shape the path you will take in life.  If this is true, choose life so that the shadow of death will be held off until later on in life.

by Jay Mankus

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Making Sense of the Unexpected

Two weeks ago, there was a tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico.  Most meteorologists believed this system would eventually make landfall some where along the Mexican coast as a minor rain event.  In the matter of 48 hours, Hurricane Harvey intensified into a giant, pounding southeast Texas with over 50 inches of rain over the last week.  After viewing all of this devastation, media pundits are trying to make sense of this unexpected event.

And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them, Mark 13:7-9.

Some of these panelists have suggested this is a sign of the apocalypse, the beginning of the last days or the wrath of God.  Curious about previous Hurricanes and Typhoons, I did some research to see if this has ever happened before.  While listening to a historian,  I discovered that a similar storm stalled over Cuba more than 60 years ago that brought over 100 inches of rainfall.  Due to the lack of technology at the time, there isn’t the video like that aired nightly of the greater Houston area.  Like the 2000 filmed based upon a true story, when the conditions are ideal a Perfect Storm can and will form.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things, Isaiah 45:7.

Whether you have the ability to choose where you live or not, there is no perfect place on earth to reside.  Every location has its appeal and negative aspects.  The beach is great but potential storms lurk out in the sea.  Mountains are beautiful until blizzards and white out conditions arrive.  The west coast is scenic until earthquakes abruptly interrupt your plans.  Meanwhile, the Midwest is a wonderful place to live until tornado season arrives.  In the end, you have to make the best of where you live, appreciating the good and enduring the bad.  As for Texas and Louisiana, these people need your prayers as recovery will take months and possibly years.  In the meantime, God is in control as this tragedy has brought communities together to help one another survive.  This is my take on making sense of the unexpected event known as Hurricane Harvey.

by Jay Mankus

The Missing Piece to a Puzzle

As a child, my parents chose Thompson Lake, Maine as the spot for our family vacation.  Every August for a decade, my father took any where from one to three weeks off to reconnect with family.  Before this trip, my mom or dad picked up a large jigsaw puzzle, usually between 5000 and 10000 pieces.  These puzzles became a family tradition to complete on cold and rainy days or uneventful evenings.  Without a television to distract us, corners were completed first, then the hard part began.  Filling in grass, mountains, the sky or water was an endless pursuit of trial and error, trying to see if nearly identical pieces would fit.  When this tough stretch was completed, anticipation grew as pieces were put in place fast and furious.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of puzzles that any came with 4999 and 9999, missing the final piece to the puzzle.  Despite a fervent search of the floor, nothing was uncovered, leaving a bitter taste of disappointment.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” – Luke 15:8

The idea that puzzles intertwines with life has some traction.  Sometimes individuals find themselves faced with a difficult decision, a dilemma or struggling to grasp why something they want has not been granted.  The reason behind earthly trials isn’t usually known at the time you go through it, yet time has a way of revealing answers to unsolved mysteries.  During these periods of uncertainty, I often feel like a missing piece to a puzzle.  The only problem is every time I think I’ve found exactly where I think I fit in life, I discover that my gifts, skill set or talents don’t match, unable to complete the puzzle.  At this point, there is a temptation to betray your true identity by asking others, “who do you want me to become?”

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines, 1 Corinthians 12:11.

The apostle Paul refers to a church as a body with many parts.  Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, it takes time to figure who you should connect with and what role best suits your personality.  If you take 1 Corinthians 12 literally, local churches are like unfinished jigsaw puzzles waiting for the right individual to come and serve.  Unfortunately, a growing mindset of what’s in it for me is preventing couples or families from taking a leap of faith.  Anyone burned by past negative experiences are gun shy, afraid of reliving the pain of broken relationships.  In the end, each person possesses unique gifts or talents no one else can offer.  Yet, free will is designed to allow you to get involved when your ready.  Therefore, if this blog finds you struggling to fit in, may the Holy Spirit lead you to complete another church, puzzle or soul.

by Jay Mankus

Those Were the Days

Over the weekend, I got off the Exit called Reflection.  Trying to avoid an eat, sleep, work and repeat the same cycle over again mentality, I pulled off to take a breather, camping in the mountains with my daughter.  Subsequently, I was able to slow down enough to take my spiritual pulse.  Laying back in the wilderness, thoughts began to flood my mind.

Healed from most of the scars from losing my teaching position to a new management group, God allowed me to see positive images from my past.  Similar to the theme song from All in the Family, the Lord brought to recall memories that made me think, those were the days.  Skipping my planning period to partake in a gym class with juniors and seniors, participating in school fundraisers like Donkey Basketball, Dodgeball, Golf Megaathon & Volleyball and developing an Ultimate Frisbee class will always hold a special place in my heart.

Although, you and I may not be exactly where we want to be currently, there’s still time to change course.  Perhaps you need to pull over, take a break or spend time reflecting.  You can start by reading Philippians 4:8; then apply this principle like a scene from Polyanna, playing the good game.  If this exercise can become a habit or daily routine, you may reach a point in time when you can honesty say, “those were the days!”

by Jay Mankus

Making An Emotional Connection

Whether its a person, place or thing, when you make an emotional connection, experience a breath taking view or recognize an unique talent, a special place opens up in your heart.  I can recall moments in life when I went to a conference, attended a retreat or met someone on vacation that I never knew, yet an instant connection occurred.  Like twins separated from birth, a long lost cousin you never met or divine intervention, there are certain types of people who click with your personality.  Despite a lack of history, some aspect, character or trait unites 2 souls together, making an emotional connection.

Last January, my wife and I returned to the place of our honeymoon for the first time, Palm Springs, California.  Yes, any day as a newly wed is special, but the landscape of the desert, mountains and vegetation of this region became etched into my mind.  Whether you’re visiting Hidden Canyon in the Joshua Tree National Forest, taking the Aerial Tram to the top of the mountains overlooking Palm Springs or hiking along the trails in Indian Canyons, there is so much to do in this section of California.  One week isn’t enough to see the sights with golf destinations, shopping and of course the Salton Sea to explore.

Finally, if you are teachable, every now and then God will reveal to you a gift you never knew you had.  Periodically I dabbled into forms of writing beginning with poetry.  From here I moved on to song writing and short stories as well as trying to write articles for various publications.  While serving as a journalist for Travel Golf Media for 2 and a half years, I began to ponder my connection with writing.  What I’ve learned is that when I take the time to be still, reflect and put into words what you’ve feeling and thinking, a sense of peace fills your soul.  Thus, this emotional connection with writing continues to stir my heart, inspiring me to be a faithful writer for Express Yourself 4 Him.  May you encounter several good emotional connections in 2014.  Have a blessed day!

by Jay Mankus

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